Monday, March 25, 2013

Trustee Profile: Union Busting Lawyer, Peter Pantaleo

At the heart of the governance battles going on at CUNY right now is the cozy relationship between the Chancellor and CUNY Board of Trustees. While most suspect that initiatives such as Pathways originate with the Chancellor, he hides behind the alleged statutory power of the Board of Trustees to impose his plans. Who is on this board and why don’t they stand up to him and protect the interests of the students and communities they are supposed to serve?

The CUNY Board of Trustees has 17 members, including two ex officio members: the head of the CUNY University Student Senate, and the head of the University Faculty Senate (who cannot vote).  The other members are appointed by either the Mayor or the Governor. Eight members were initially appointed by Pataki, four by Bloomberg, and one each by Giuliani, Patterson, and Cuomo. They serve seven year terms and can be reappointed for additional terms. The Chairman of the Board is Benno Schmidt, the only educator appointed to the Board, though his interests in for-profit education and corporate led “reform” movements will be discussed in a later post. Official bios can be found at

Over the next few weeks we’ll be profiling a number of trustees to illustrate their utter lack of qualifications to serve on the Board of this great public institution. Today we start with union-busting lawyer Peter S. Pantaleo.

Democratic Governor David Paterson appointed Peter S. Pantaleo, a top professional in the lucrative field of anti-unionism. The Board of Trustees website (  identifies Pantaleo as a “Partner at DLA PIPER,” adding: “Mr. Pantaleo represents both domestic and international employers in labor, employment, and civil rights matters. While he has substantial experience litigating cases before courts, administrative agencies, and arbitration panels, the principal focus of Mr. Pantaleo’s practice is advising employers in complex, politically sensitive labor and employment matters.”

DLA PIPER is the largest law firm in the U.S. by attorney headcount, reportedly representing half the Fortune 500. Its website includes a “Labor and Employment Alert” giving employers step-by-step instructions on how to use a recent decision of the anti-labor NLRB to “prohibit use of email for union organizing purposes.” This is remarkably similar to what happened at CUNY’s LaGuardia Community College, which banned faculty from using email to discuss union business until this gag rule was defeated by the union.

Pantaleo has worked for the Las Vegas MGM Grand hotel during its campaign to stop a unionization drive (New York Times, 10 March 1997). His old firm Pantaleo, Lipkin & Moss represented Las Vegas bosses at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) who banned three workers from handing out pro-union leaflets at the entrance to a casino/hotel complex.

In May 1998 Pantaleo co-authored an article in Gaming Law Review describing strategies for “lessening the power” of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union.  Another Pantaleo piece, from 2004, tells employers in non-union workplaces how to use a NLRB rulings to prevent employees from having a coworker present during “investigatory interviews” (Monday Business Briefing, 5 July 2004).

Perhaps Panteleo’s contempt for organized labor is part of the reason the Chancellor feels so supported in his efforts to undermine governance and reduce faculty power.

If you’ve got information about the activities of the Chancellor or CUNY trustees you would like people to know about, please send it to us at

Thanks to the CUNY Internationalist Clubs for assistance with this post.

Friday, March 22, 2013

BC Provost Threatens to Ignore Faculty Council Vote on Curriculum Changes

Faculty Council Steering Committee Responds

More than a month ago, the Provost's office submitted Pathways-compliant courses to CUNY Central from the English Department despite the department's decision not to participate in Pathways. Recently, the English Department brought a proposal before Faculty Council to change the majority of its courses to 4-credits. The Provost and several other administrators spoke out strongly against the proposal and it missed passing by a single vote. When the Provost learned that the English Department would submit this proposal again at the next Faculty Council meeting, he declared that if it passed, he would not submit the proposal to CUNY Central.

In other words, when the English Department doesn't want the Provost to submit courses, he does; when it does, he says he won’t. It's hard to imagine more obvious contempt for faculty control of the curriculum. (For more details on the English Department proposal, read below.)

In both cases, the Provost violates CUNY bylaws. CUNY's Bylaws specify, in article XI.4.A.g, that the President is to, "Transmit to the chancellor recommendations of his/her faculty or faculty council on matters of curriculum and other matters falling under faculty jurisdiction." Nowhere do the Bylaws permit the President not to carry out such transmission.

Brooklyn College's governance plan, in article II.A, states that the faculty, "shall be responsible for the formulation of policy relating to the admission and retention of students, including health and scholarship standards; student attendance, including leaves of absence; curriculum; awarding of college credit; granting of degrees." Nowhere in the governance plan is responsibility for curriculum assigned to any other body.

This is another example of the Provost carrying out CUNY Central's project to break faculty morale and governance rights and shifting ever more authority to a growing cadre of administrators. This is being done not for the benefit of the students, but rather as part of a project to downgrade academic standards and increase the workload of faculty and staff to cover up the massive public sector disinvestment in CUNY.

In response to the Provosts' threat, the Steering Committee of Faculty Council has issued the following letter:

March 19, 2013

Dr. Karen L. Gould, President
Brooklyn College CUNY

Dear President Gould:

At the March 12, 2013, meeting of Faculty Council, a member of the administration referred to “shared governance” when discussing curriculum matters. Following the meeting, one of the Deans stated that the administration would not forward curriculum documents approved by Faculty Council, but with which the administration disagrees, to the Board of Trustees. The Steering Committee of Faculty Council would like to share with you its understanding of governance of the curriculum as set forth in the current Brooklyn College Governance Plan (approved by the CUNY Board of Trustees) and the Bylaws of the Board of Trustees of the City University of New York.

The BC Governance Plan spells out the responsibilities of the faculty in Article II, Section A as follows:

The faculty shall consist of all persons having faculty rank or status. It shall conduct the educational affairs customarily cared for by a college faculty. It shall make its own bylaws consistent with this governance plan and Bylaws of the Board of Trustees of The City University of New York. It shall meet at least once each semester, or more often, at the call of the President or by petition of ten percent of its members, and shall be responsible for the formulation of policy relating to the admission and retention of students, including health and scholarship standards; student attendance, including leaves of absence; curriculum; awarding of college credit; granting of degrees. Meetings of the Faculty shall be chaired by the President.

Section B defines Faculty Council as:

The Faculty Council shall be the legislative body of the Faculty and shall have all the responsibilities of a faculty, as exercised heretofore under the Bylaws and Policy Statements of the Board of Trustees of The City University of New York subject only to the review of the Faculty.

The Brooklyn College Governance Plan assigns no other body the responsibility for the development of curriculum.

Furthermore, as curriculum documents passed by Faculty Council represent the exercise of faculty authority on curriculum, and given the Bylaws of the Board of Trustees, Article XI, section 4(A)g, concerning duties and responsibilities of the President, which state:
Transmit to the chancellor recommendations of his/her faculty or faculty council on matters of curriculum and other matters falling under faculty jurisdiction.

it is our understanding that such documents will be transmitted to the Chancellor even if members of the administration disagree with the content therein.

The faculty remain open to discussion with the administration regarding matters of curriculum policy, particularly as these involve budget and accreditation concerns. However, our governance plan is clear that authority over such policy rests with the faculty alone. There is no “shared governance” of the curriculum.

Sincerely, and With Respect,

Bill Gargan (Library)
Maria E. Perez-Gonzalez (PRLS)
Yedidyah Langsam (CIS), Chair
Martha Nadell (English)
Timothy Shortell (Sociology)
The Steering Committee of Faculty Council

The English Department justifies its need for change as follows:

In the eight years since we have conducted assessments of student learning, based on the objectives we identified as crucial to our majors’ success. We have examined students’ ability to think and read critically, to write sentences that are relatively free of lexical and syntactic flaws, to understand the styles of historical periods, to understand literature in its historical, political, and social contexts, to conduct research and write papers that synthesize the ideas of others, with appropriate citation and free of plagiarism, etc.

Too few of our students fall under the “good-enough” and “better- than-good-enough” rubrics as we have defined them; in short, they need more opportunities to practice their skills. Thus, we have decided to adopt a four-credit model that will increase, in our literature classes, the number, and, frequently, the difficulty, of texts and allow, as well, for doubling the page requirement for writing assignments from 12 to 25 (exclusive of exams). Much of this work will be completed away from the classroom. Thus, we will use the '4-credits/3-hours and conference' model that other departments, like Classics, have already successfully adopted. However, in creative writing and most linguistic courses, we will move to a '4-credit/4 hours' model, in recognition of the need for more time in the classroom for exercises and the “workshopping” of student work. That is, the longer class periods will allow for a better balance of craft instruction and feedback from instructor and classmates than is possible in the current hour and fifteen minute (twice a week) configuration. There is no academic justification for increasing credits for independent study and honors thesis courses, which will remain at 3 credits.

Many English Departments around the country have precisely the arrangement that our English Department means to pass, namely, 3 credits of classroom time and 4 credits awarded to both faculty and students. Berkeley's English 45 follows precisely this model, for example. Furthermore, given an increasing trend towards online courses and MOOCs in particular, Middle States recognizes that colleges have some right to determine how they will award credit. Its document on Credit Hour policy observes that while the Carnegie Unit "has served as a traditional unit of measure...the [U. S. ] Department [of Education] also recognizes that institutions are developing other methods of educational content and credit equivalency. The purpose of the credit hour policy is to ensure that credit hour measures are reasonably equivalent regardless of how institutions award credit hours to courses and programs in various modes of instruction and teaching and learning formats." The United States Department of Education's memo on credit hours makes the same point repeatedly, for example, that "The credit hour definition does not emphasize the concept of 'seat time' (time in class) as the primary metric for determining the amount of student work for Federal purposes. Institutes may assign credit hours to courses for an amount of work represented by verifiable student achievement of institutionally established learning outcomes" (3).

In short, the insistence that credit hours exactly mirror contact hours does not represent developing standard practice. Despite the Provost's scaremongering at Faculty Council, the English Department would not be in violation of Middle States or Federal Guidelines if its new course policy were instituted, nor would it stand outside the mainstream of some of most prestigious English Departments in this country. The Provost's declarations about the financial cost of the English Department's policy are equally specious, given that there is no evidence that his office has explored these costs.

After Spring Break, an ad hoc committee comprising the deans, master planning, and the two curriculum committees will be investigating credit hours. Ellen Tremper, Chair of the English Department, has recommended that the committee run simulations to determine the costs and benefits of switching her department's courses to a 4-credit standard. There is no good reason for the institution not to engage in such study and to make its methods and findings available openly to Faculty Council and perhaps the College Community as a whole.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

CUNY First Computer System to Aid Administrative Control over Colleges at the Expense of Efficiency and Effectiveness

Guest Post
Every once in a while I get a question, either privately or in a department meeting, regarding CUNYFirst. Here is what I know of CUNYFirst, based on a few years of working with the project as a "training liaison" (which is a fancy term for room-scheduler).

(1) The idea of CUNYFirst is a good one: to have a unified, integrated "enterprise"-scale system that encompasses all university/campus business processes. Such a system could, in principle at least, have saved a lot of expenditure on maintaining dozens of disparate, redundant, barely cooperating third-party systems. Such a system could have offered information access that would have benefited the administration, the staff, the faculty, and students.

(2) CUNY Central's motives in pursuing CUNYFirst were dominated by an agenda that has nothing to do with such benefits however. Rather, CUNY Central sought absolute control over all college activity, including curriculum. Think of it: whoever controls the catalog, the bulletin, the transcripts, and the apparatus in general effectively controls curriculum. CUNYFirst will be part of the arsenal by which CUNY Central shoves Pathways down our throat. CUNY Central also sought the knowledge of and therefore access to any discretionary funds that the colleges may have.

(3) The negotiations that were the run-up to the purchase of CUNYFirst were a travesty. The project required an expenditure of up to a billion dollars to do it right. CUNY Central offered far less. All but one of the bidders dropped out as a result: the project could not be done properly with what CUNY offered. Oracle-PeopleSoft did not drop out. However they warned CUNY that for that level of funding, they could not, would not CUSTOMIZE: they would only CONFIGURE.

CUNY Central was so eager to have a centralized MIS tool to use for its own centralizing, corporatizing agenda, that it totally ignored the implications of the Oracle "configure-only" limitation: business processes would have to be made to fit Oracle, not vice versa. Capabilities that we now have will vanish. The staff, the faculty, the students would just have to "adjust" (the technical term being "suck it up").

(4) And thus, CUNY has spent about $600 million dollars on a system that makes things worse everywhere it goes. The actual cost far exceeds the $600 million dollars that go to Oracle. Because processes are now much more inefficient, more people have to be hired to do tasks that were formerly automated.

Unknown and unseen to most faculty has been the toll that this takes on HEOs and to some extent clericals -- the people who actually make the university run. (No, professor colleagues, you are important but you do NOT make the university run-- that is another discussion.)

HEOs have been forced to put in all sorts of extra hours without compensation. Some of this is transitional, some of it is systemic.

(5) CUNYFirst does work. It just works badly.
• The interface is laughable: It looks like an early-90s update of 3270 bi-synch technology. Web 2.0? Ha. Not even Web 1.0.
• Because CUNY wouldn't pay for customization, we had to renumber our courses. This is just one of many, less visible to faculty, changes that CUNYFirst has forced.
• The security model is totally inappropriate for CUNY: we will have work-study students performing tasks that require vast permissions, thus allowing them to access data of other students.
• HR has had to struggle with the "problem" of an individual being a grad student enrolled in one campus serving as an instructor at another campus and having a part-time office job in a third. GM and Apple don't work that way. But CUNY does.

(6) We at Brooklyn College (and other "Wave 3" campuses) WILL adjust. I know people in other schools (in earlier "waves") who have. We will suffer more than they have because Brooklyn College has had the best add-on systems (for scheduling, grade reporting, etc) of the university. Many of these will now go away.

(7) I witnessed some of the early testing. It was done by following a test script that the vendor provided. As it failed multiple times, an engineer from Oracle would run to the next room to adjust something and then the testers would re-try. I've heard though that they've improved this process somewhat.

(9) Have you read all the way to this? Must be a slow day for you. Well, the thing to keep in mind is that no matter how bad CUNYFirst is for YOU, CUNYFirst is a success for CUNYCentral -- see point (2).
David Arnow
Computer and Information Science
Brooklyn College

Friday, March 15, 2013

Brooklyn College Faculty Council Censures Administration over Pathways Implementation

On March 12 the Brooklyn College Faculty Council voted overwhelming to “condemn the College administration’s grievous action of making curriculum changes not approved by the College’s faculty.” The text of the resolution is below.
 Over the last year the faculty at Brooklyn College, and throughout CUNY, have emphatically demonstrated their opposition to Pathways. The PSC website has links to the various resolutions, petitions, and letters of opposition: Many campuses refused totally or partially to implement Pathways, and even those that passed Pathways courses and implementation plans often did so only under extreme pressure from local administrators. The vast majority of CUNY faculty remain outraged at CUNY Central’s grab for control over curriculum.
Here at Brooklyn College, our Faculty Council has twice passed resolutions that condemn Pathways and refuses to implement it.  A straw poll at the fall Stated Meeting of the Faculty showed almost unanimous opposition to Pathways.
Despite this opposition, the local administration, responding to pressure from CUNY Central, moved to implement Pathways anyway. The Provost pressured department chairs and gave out thousands of dollars to get faculty to write new Pathways-compliant courses. These courses and others have been submitted to CUNY Central without Faculty Council and in some cases even departmental approval. At the December Faculty Council meeting the Provost also indicated that he would be changing the language in the College Bulletin, despite the explicit condemnation of this action at that very meeting.  All of these actions were taken despite CUNY governance plans that require faculty approval for such endeavors.
These actions fundamentally undermine the role of the faculty in developing curriculum. The wishes of departments, Faculty Council, and the faculty at large have been ignored.
On our new blog,, we will be relating Pathways to larger issues and trends both within CUNY and nationwide. In the next post, we will discuss the role of the Board of Trustees in pushing Pathways, and how Pathways fits into a broader project of sacrificing standards in the name of efficiency and cost-cutting.



March 12, 2013 

Special Resolution on Faculty Governance  
Committees on Course & Standing, Undergraduate Curriculum & Degree  
Requirements, Graduate Admissions & Standards, Graduate Curriculum, and  
Whereas, according to the Governance Plan of Brooklyn College (Article II), the  
faculty “shall be responsible for the formulation of policy relating to the  
admission and retention of students, including health and scholarship standards;  
student attendance, including leaves of absence; curriculum; awarding of college  
credit; granting of degrees”; and   

Whereas, Faculty Council is “the legislative body of the Faculty and shall have all  
the responsibilities of a faculty”;  and   

Whereas, Faculty Council, at its meeting of April 3, 2012, voted not to “implement  
a [CUNY] Pathways curriculum under the current guidelines,” and again, at its  
meeting of May 8, 2012, reaffirmed that stand, and since that time has not  
approved any Pathwaysrelated curricular changes; and    

Whereas, Provost William Tramontano, at the Faculty Council meeting of  
December 11, 2012, announced that, at the direction of EVC Logue, he had  
submitted 19 courses not approved by Faculty Council for Brooklyn College’s 
participation in Pathways, and at the Faculty Council meeting of February 19,  
2013, confirmed that “much behind the scenes work on Pathways” had occurred  
since then,  

Be it therefore resolved that the Faculty Council of Brooklyn College takes  
exception to this breach of the College’s governance plan and condemns the  
College administration’s grievous action of making curricular changes without the  
approval of Faculty Council.